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#32 - 2011 December
By Sarah L. Myers
New York, USA
It's my favorite New York City bar, my favorite New York Dolls song, and now it's my favorite way to get trashed.
New York. My version of the city that never sleeps -
NYC from the Chelsea Hotel
I recently came across a seemingly endless stack of notebooks, journals, and manuscripts - all composed when I was between the ages of 14 and 17, all detailing a life I’d yet to live, and all written for a city I’d yet to even visit.
New York was an “almost” place. It reminded me of Oz, or Mecca, or a storybook land composed entirely of “almost” characters. They existed somewhere, but were so far removed from my world they only lived in my imagination. I don’t even know why I wanted to see it. I had no family in New York. My mother had never been. My brother hated big cities and despised crowds of people. My grandma and grandpa never spoke of New York in any way outside the norm. “She’s a movie star in New York.” “I don’t know why anyone would want to live in New York.” But I kept writing, and soon developed my own group of characters living in an “almost” world in Manhattan.
Rachel was a runaway, breaking free at age fourteen from an institution upstate. Scream was her rock star boyfriend. New York City was very real, and served as the backdrop for their tumultuous romance. Dino was another musician, prone to wearing leopard-print vests and leather pants. I had to believe these people were really out there. I cut out ads from the Village Voice. There were places called Coney Island High, hosting Glitter Acid Rock n’ Roll Trash Balls. Joey Ramone threw parties at the Continental. I pictured Scream leaning against the wall at CBGBs, maybe getting an old flier stuck to his jacket.
There was Georgia, a Midwestern transplant who falls in love with the brooding Cash Landing. His combat boots hit the floor of their NYU theater class, they lock eyes, and all she sees for the next 57 pages is him. Fast forward thirteen years, when I’m sitting on the 6 train trying not to drop “The Marriage Plot” as Jeffrey Eugenides describes Leonard Bankhead in eerily similar detail. Eugenides had written his way out of Detroit. I was creating a world other than mine in Indiana.
During my first visit to New York I stayed at the legendary Chelsea Hotel. I imagined ghosts circling around me as I worked on my Thirsty editorial. I’d read a sign taped to a residents’ door: “I didn’t choose the Chelsea. The Chelsea chose me.” I felt the same way about the city. I painted myself into it, feeling a thrill when someone asked me for directions, mistaking me for a real New Yorker. Truthfully, I was scared, totally unsure of myself, and couldn’t wait for that day when my footing was cemented and sure. Now fast forward just five years, when I finally recognize devotion and reject deception. You shrug off the bad because there just isn’t time to deal with it. There are columns to write, shows to see, drinks to drink, and memories to make.
This year challenged my love for New York more than others. There were some pretty big transitions, but adapting to change is like taking a breath these days. I love my city, and it’s proven itself to me in 2011. Those characters are definitely here. You may have created similar ones yourself, and are just as amazed that you can live where they do. I’m still surprised every day.